Page 4263 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 27 November 2013

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We all go through different phases of our lives when we might like the different lifestyles of high density living or suburban block living. The future of Canberra’s quality of life depends on offering a wide range of choice in how we live. Part of the test of capital metro over the next 20 years or so will be seeing how it enlivens and intensifies Northbourne Avenue and Dickson in particular.

Canberra’s expansion from the 1960s and 1970s on gave little thought to alternatives to the car or walking as the main modes of transport. Public schools and shops in new suburbs were within walking distance during the baby boom that accompanied the growth of the city. Ample free parking near work sites was common.

Times change. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the office and shopping core of Civic was surrounded by acres and acres of asphalt car parks. These car parks have made way for a much more dynamic and exciting city, offering more of everything except more and more parking. Public transport, buses and capital metro offer an alternative to more congestion, more wasted time in peak hours, and more pollution. One projection estimates that capital metro could produce savings of more than $200 million—$200 million—over 30 years in the costs of congestion, vehicle running expenses and environmental impacts. The population along the corridor is already growing, with or without capital metro. Congestion along Northbourne Avenue, already our most congested peak hour road, will get worse without capital metro as an alternative.

Introducing light rail is a transforming move for Canberra. It is not cheap up-front, and the opposition, while it has supported light rail at different times, is predicting the end of Canberra civilisation as we know it, as oppositions often do. This is the kind of reckless inconsistency that Mr Gentleman was talking about before. Around the world, as we have heard today, comparable cities are turning to light rail or investing in their existing systems for the same reasons we are. In Australia both Labor and Liberal governments are investing in light rail. We are not alone. We are not alone timidly putting a toe on the tram. In years to come, capital metro and other modern light rail around Australia will be seen as best practice public transport in high density urban environments.

I look forward to capital metro getting rolling and proving its worth on our initial route. All Ginninderra MLAs, including that chief naysayer Mr Coe, as we have heard from Mr Hanson this morning, are imagining how we could use light rail in Belconnen and the best routes for our constituents. Belconnen town centre and our rapid transit routes through Bruce, past the University of Canberra and Calvary Hospital, could be easily adapted to make the most of light rail once we have the capital metro Gungahlin to Civic route established. It is time we got all aboard.

MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Women, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (11.11): I thank Mr Gentleman for bringing this motion to the Assembly today. We have heard of the benefits of this transformational project and what it will bring to our city. We have heard of the progress and clear direction that this project has achieved in its first year and that it remains on track to commence construction in 2016.

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